Two weeks ago, I ran the Big Cottonwood Marathon. This was my first time running this marathon. Last year, I ran the half and absolutely loved it! Beautiful scenery, nice downhill course, great company. I decided after such a good experience, I should go ahead and run the full the next year.
And so, I registered for the full and began my training.
I have always had the goal to qualify for Boston. Up to that point my running pace has been about a minute and a half too slow to qualify. Early this year, a series of things motivated me to give it a go and try to train for a faster time. I started pushing a little harder in my training runs, running intervals and sprints, and started hitting weights heavy and hard.
The hard work paid off.
The morning of September 13th, I woke up at an insane hour only runners and new mothers see on a regular basis, met up with my friends, Betty and Annette and sister Kathryn and brother Mason and loaded the school bus full of all the other crazy runners to ride up to the start. Freezing our toes off, we and all the other runners huddled together in our foil blankets, waiting for the race to start.
Roughly half hour after the scheduled start time, the race finally began. Pacing alongside, Jolene, my sister’s neighbor, who had a similar time goal as mine, I weaved my way thru the other runners, warming up my legs, finding my rhythm.
Riding the adrenaline of race day, soaking in the excitement of my fellow runners, and floating on the gravity of the canyon, I picked up speed, letting the hill carry me across the miles.
At about mile 4, I had warmed up so decided to shed my long sleeve shirt. In the process, my ear buds fell behind my back. I asked Jolene, who was still pacing beside me, to help me grab it. As we both ran along, focusing on my earbuds, Jolene ran over a traffic cone and fell down hard, slamming her knee on the pavement. As I helped her up and to the side of the road, I was overcome with feelings of guilt. Jolene had already had one failed attempt at qualifying for Boston and this was her second chance. And I had potentially cost her her shot.
After making sure she was ok, Jolene insisted I keep going. Reluctantly, I went on my way, stopping briefly at the next aid station for a pit stop.
Concerned about my potty break costing me precious minutes, I sped up down the canyon, passing a few familiar faces as I went. Eventually, I caught up with Jolene again. Thankful to see she was ok and still running, I paced alongside her again. We ran together all the way down the canyon.
At the bottom of the canyon, about mile 15, I stopped quickly to take a swig of my energy drink I had stashed, turned the corner, as the course changed from smooth downhill, to rolling ups and downs, and surged forward. The change of terrain was a nice break on my muscles after the long down hill.
About mile 16, trudging uphill, Jolene urged me onward, as she slowed for a walk break. I was still feeling good so I kept going.
I had worried that the out and back part of the course on Wasatch blvd. would be demoralizing, but it was fun to see so many of my friends pass by as they ran ahead of me along the course. About a mile before the turn-around point, around mile 18, the uphill started getting steeper and seeing that giant sign up in the distance, I started to hit a wall. That was the longest, hardest mile of the race. I thought I’d never get there. But I powered forward, promising myself a walk break at the top.
Finally, I reached mile 19 and the turn around point. Little did I know, it wasn’t all downhill. The rolling up and down I had just experienced was meant to be repeated.
I was exhausted. My legs ached. My feet ached. Putting one foot in front of the other took every ounce of strength and will power I had. I made it to the next aid station, took some GU and water as the 3:35 pacer passed by me. I had to keep up! I just had to! So, again, I pressed forward, watching as the distance between me and my goal time grew farther away.
Push!, I told myself. Keep going! Mile 22. This is that moment, in every marathon I have ever run, that moment when I have to dig as deep into my soul as I can, and find the strength, courage and will power to endure to the end. I prayed. I cried. I tried to maintain my breathing rhythm as I choked on my raw emotions.
Overcoming my discouragement, I rounded that last corner. The course turned again down hill. Only three miles to go. Frustration and fear gave way to gratitude and hope. No matter the end result, I felt such an overwhelming sense of gratitude for what my body was able to do. It’s not the first time and certainly won’t be the last, that I have been overcome with thanks for my Creator for blessing me with this body that is healthy and strong and can perform what I ask it to do. Running 26.2 miles is so, incredibly hard. And once again, for the 8th time in my life, I was able to do it.
Adrenaline, endorphins and probably a few angels carried me through those last few miles. As I neared mile 26, I dug deep and surged forward, and sprinted that last quarter mile. Finishing just seconds behind my target pacer, I crossed the finish line with a clock time of 3:35:56.
I had done it! I made it! And I QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON!
Tears, sweat, pain, grit, love, exhaustion, elation. Just a few of the things I was feeling as I hobbled around the finisher’s square.
After waiting for my friends and sister and brother to come across the finish, eating, drinking, I walked to the timing table to get my official time printout.
Official chip time was 3:33:08!
I couldn’t be more thrilled!
I have never been more sore after a race as this one, I experienced a slight injury in my foot from the steep terrain, but it was so worth it!
I’m going to Boston!